North Korea’s attack on ship, island still haunts South

North Korea’s attack on ship, island still haunts South

YEONPYEONG, South Korea - Hürriyet Daily News
North Korea’s attack on ship, island still haunts South

Hürriyet Daily News reporter Ümit Enginsoy is seen in front of a CH-47D Chinook heavy lift helicopter, that carried him to Yeonpyeong island, hit by North Korean artillery and rockets.

Torpedo, artillery and rocket attacks on one of South Korea’s patrol boats and an island in the Yellow Sea in 2010 by North Korea have left South Korea’s psyche still traumatized nearly two years after the assaults.

On March 26, 2010, when the Cheonan, a Republic of Korea ship carrying 104 personnel, sank off South Korea’s west coast near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea killing 46 seamen, it became the first major attack by North Korea since the Korean War in the 1950s.

“We couldn’t find or retrieve six of our dead personnel,” Lt. Jang Eunji said on a recent visit by international journalists to the wreckage of the Cheonan, which has been converted into a museum near Seoul.

A South Korean-led official investigation carried out by a team presented a summary of its investigation on May 20, 2010. They had concluded that the warship had been sunk by a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine. North Korea denied responsibility for the sinking, but was still widely condemned for the attack within the international community.

The wound inflicted on the Cheonan makes it clear that the ship was sunk by a North Korean missile, Jang said. Only eight months after the Cheonan attack, North Koreans strafed the island of Yeonpyeong, close to the sea border in the Yellow Sea between the two Koreas, with artillery shells and rockets.

Trip to island

On Nov. 23, 2010, following a South Korean artillery exercise in waters in the south, North Korean forces fired approximately 170 artillery shells and rockets at Yeonpyeong Island hitting both military and civilian targets. The shelling killed four South Koreans, two soldiers and two construction workers, while also injuring 19. South Korea retaliated by shelling North Korean gun positions. Last week, I was taken with several foreign reporters to the small island of Yeonpyeong on a CH-47D Chinook heavy lift helicopter, one of nearly 30 such choppers in the South Korean military’s inventory.

Turkey’s military also signed a $400 million agreement with Boeing to buy six CH-47 heavy lift gunships, five for the army and one for the Special Forces Command. Deliveries are due to start next week. There was limited damage to civilian targets as viewed during the visit. The North Korean artillery and rockets, which were obviously not very precise and accurate weapons, had hit the South Korean targets in a random fashion and inflicted various levels of damage, despite the shelling resulting in the death of four people. Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s present leader, who at the time was involved in a race to succeed his ailing father Kim Jong-il, is thought to be responsible for the attack. “Kim Jong-un, who was trying to prove his credentials to the North Korean people, is directly responsible for the attacks and the deaths,” said one South Korean official.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak warned after the incident that any future North Korean attacks would be retaliated in the same manner. North Korea has not attacked the South since then and South Korea has since cut all aid talks with the North. “These attacks, the first almost since the Korean war, have greatly affected the South Korean collective psyche,” said one American observer. “The South no longer trusts the North.”